To many players, two minor-league games at the tail end of a season without playoff hopes might seem meaningless.
To Zach Redmond, they were huge.
The Traverse City native and Winnipeg defenseman signed a new one-year contract with the Jets this weekend. Both Redmond and the team hope they’ll see the same player who looked NHL-ready for eight Jets games before a freak practice accident in which a teammate’s skate slashed his femoral artery on Feb. 21. Even after the immediate life-threatening considerations were past, the injury led many to assume his season — or even career — was over.
Instead, Redmond put in his rehab time and ended up playing in two games for the Ice Caps — Winnipeg’s American Hockey League affiliate — in the team’s final series of the season against the Toronto Marlies.
Getting those games under his belt is a big relief for Redmond. Instead of going through an entire off-season worrying about whether he’ll be able to handle game action, and then again in training camp, he’s comfortable with how he was able to play in the pair of contests.
“They went good,” Redmond said. “It was definitely good to get a couple in before the end of the year, to prove to yourself that you can still play. It’s something so you don’t have to worry about it over the summer.”
He started on the top defense pairing in his April 19 return to the ice, and then played again two days later.
Redmond says he needs no further rehabilitation on the injured leg.
“I’m cleared, completely back to normal,” Redmond said. “Nothing has changed from the routine from last summer. I’m focusing as little more on other parts of my legs this summer, but that’s not something I have to do. It’s just something I think will benefit from getting stronger.”
Redmond’s new Jets’ deal is on a one-year, two-way contract worth $715,000 that was announced by the team Saturday.
Redmond was able to stand out last season for eight games when the Jets suffered some blueline injuries, putting up a goal and four points, 12 hits, eight blocked shots and an even +/- rating. The team had a net -16 rating and missing the playoffs by four points.
The Jets also re-signed fellow defender Paul Postma to a one-year deal, and blueliner Zach Bogosian is a free agent.
“He’ll re-sign,” Redmond said of Bogosian. “I think that’s just a matter of time. He’s got an arbitration hearing. Either way, it doesn’t change the outlook for me. Either way, I have to show up and play well and hope to earn a spot.”
If Bogosian re-signs, the Jets will have six defensemen potentially in front of Redmond when training camp begins in mid-September. But he faced that same situation last year, and still was able to find a way into the lineup.
“If you earn it, you earn it,” Redmond said. “Usually you get some kind of indication if you’re going to start up or down. At this point, that is an unknown, and I’ve got to show up and work hard and hopefully make the big team.”
Redmond’s return from the gruesome injury is often called “miraculous.” But since he hadn’t ever experienced anything like that before, it was kind of normal for Redmond.
“I guess I have nothing to compare it to, so I don’t know what the normal recovery (time) is,” Redmond said. “Everybody was talking about how fast it was. It seemed pretty normal for me, because I didn’t know what to expect.”